By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The Guam Education Board has collaborated with the Guam Waterworks Authority to conduct a drinking water assessment in five schools that serve as centers for school meal preparation.
According to GDOE, by focusing on the lead testing requirements for these five schools, the team was able to determine what kind of training is necessary for staff to carry out a testing initiative across the island by 2025.
“Through this engaging process with NASBE, members of the Guam team received valuable information and technical assistance. The focus on healthy schools aligns with the latest version of our strategic plan, and working alongside community partners is helping to ensure a healthy environment for students to learn and succeed,” said Mary Okada, chair of the Guam education board.
Despite challenges with school repairs and maintenance, Guam has received recognition, along with Indiana and the District of Columbia, for their efforts to provide students "access to healthy school facilities free from environmental harm."
The National Association of State Boards of Education or NASBE praised the state boards for having "demonstrated leadership, innovation, and commitment to ensuring safe and healthy learning environments for students and staff."
Following the release of a NASBE landscape analysis on testing and remediation of lead in school drinking water, NASBE established the HSFN in 2022 to build and enhance the capacity of states to ensure all students have access to healthy school facilities free from environmental harm.
The Healthy School Facilities Network (HSFN) is a collaborative initiative that supports state boards of education and their partners in improving the physical and environmental conditions of schools.
Throughout the project, state teams participated in training sessions where they interacted with researchers, experts, and federal agencies and identified action steps for their own work.
From the beginning, network leaders concurred that increasing issue awareness among key stakeholders would be a high priority to generate a “groundswell of support” for policy-making efforts and investment in school facility improvement.
Participating state boards each received a $10,000 grant over one year to form teams of key state and local leaders to engage in learning activities, convene stakeholders, and develop action plans to advance school facility improvements.
State teams joined trainings where they connected with researchers, subject matter experts, and federal agencies and discussed action items for their work.
From the start, network leaders agreed that raising issue awareness among key stakeholders would be a high priority to create a “groundswell of support” for policymaking efforts and investment in school facility improvement, NASBE said.
“Unpacking the subject of healthy school facilities and taking steps to remediate health hazards is a daunting task,” said Celina Pierrottet, NASBE’s associate director of student wellness. “It was important for NASBE to support teams in such a way that allowed them to advance this issue based on their local contexts and priorities.”
The DC State Board of Education team hired Sarah Woodhead, former DC chief of facilities, to conduct research comparing facility standards and practices across the district’s public and charter schools.
She identified opportunities to improve public understanding of D.C.’s oversight of school facilities, address the health and safety of school facilities, and demonstrate how their current master plan process can enable data comparison across sectors.